My Year in Review: top five moments for Good Things Foundation in 2017

As the end of 2017 comes racing towards me, I’ve been reflecting on our biggest and best moments and wanted to share with you my top five for the year. It’s been so difficult to choose just five as there have been so many amazing moments, so many fabulous projects we’re running, so many great partners. Anyway, here’s five:

  1. Two Millionth Learner Awards

What it’s all about – helping people have better lives through digital. This year we celebrated the amazing milestone of passing two million people we have helped, alongside our partners in the Online Centres Network, since 2010. In February, we celebrated some of those two million people as well as showcasing the hard work of the Online Centres. We had lunch up the BT Tower in London, followed by the Award ceremony itself. It was an inspiring day with many tears shed, and even though a few months have passed, I still feel fuzzy when I think about how much that day meant to people like Marita and Margaret. Read my blog about it here.

  1. Launching Good Things Foundation Australia

When we won the contract from the Department of Social Services in Australia in June, we were both excited and nervous. Expanding to another country on the other side of the world was such a great prospect but also a little scary. We set up our subsidiary and began recruitment of the Be Connected network, the Online Centres Network’s Aus counterpart. We recruited our new director Jess Wilson who has now met the entire UK team having visited us just this month, and we’re delighted to have recruited almost 800 Network Partners into our Australian digital inclusion network since mid-August. I’m very excited about what else we’ll be achieving in Australia in 2018. Take a look at the Be Connected website.

  1. Digital Evolution: a movement for social change

Our 2017 conference was one of the best ones yet. For the first time it completely sold out and we had lots of amazing speakers, including Molly Watt – a true inspiration – and Campbell Robb – the passionate CEO of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. To see just some of the day’s highlights, take a look at our round-up video below.

  1. Winning Digital Leader of the Year

At the DL100 Awards back in June, I was surprised and honoured to receive the Digital Leader of the Year award, a real accolade in the digital inclusion community. I didn’t just win the award for me, it was for the whole Good Things Foundation team and the Online Centres Network too. I’m so proud of everyone for all of the amazing work that you all do. Read more about it here.

  1. Launching our pilot in Kenya

Our second worldwide venture of the year was when we launched Digital Life: Kenya, a pilot project we’re running in collaboration with the Kenyan National Library Service (knls). We’ve developed a custom version of Learn My Way and two of our team, Emily and Michael, travelled to Nairobi to run Digital Champion training for 20 librarians to help them support their library members to learn about ways to use the internet for the first time or to use it more. There have already been some success stories with two learners from Kinyambu Library securing jobs after developing their digital skills using Learn My Way. Take a look at the short report about the project so far, launched last week, and our project page on our website.

I also want to mention our big three projects we’re running: with DfE there’s the Future Digital Inclusion programme that helps hundreds of thousands of people a year develop better basic digital skills and understanding; English My Way continues to go from strength to strength, supported by DCLG, we’re helping people with very little English language to grow in confidence and in community connection by learning to speak and understand more; and the NHS Widening Digital Participation is leading 20 design-led pilots working with medical practitioners, CCGs, and Online Centres in 20 towns and cities around the country. And I want to mention Lloyds Banking Group, Google, Talk Talk, MIND and Homeless Link for all of their help to deliver more reach and increased learning. It’s also been a year when we’ve developed more pilots including working with the Money Advice Service for a random control trial to improve financial capability.

We’re leaving 2017 with many uncertainties in the UK from Brexit to the rollout of Universal Credit. There are so many social challenges facing both individuals and communities – so many issues that need to be tackled. But one thing’s for certain, Good Things Foundation, the Online Centres Network will be here to provide support and help those who are most in need.

I want to thank the amazing team at Good Things Foundation – I really am so lucky to work with such talented, committed and hardworking people. We can’t achieve so much in the past 12 months without a lot of effort. Thank you to my team who share my passion for a better world through digital and who usually have a big smile on their face.

If 2017 is anything to go by, it’s onwards and upwards for 2018 as we continue to go from strength-to-strength. Watch this space as I’m sure 2018 will be another exciting year.

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet…

…for Auld Lang Syne – or so the song goes that we sing at the end of every year. Christmas and New Year are great opportunities to reflect on the last 12 months and to celebrate all of your successes, and for Good Things Foundation there have been a lot.

Here are my top Good Things moments from 2016 (in no particular order):

  • Becoming a charity

We long talked about becoming a charity and in March, thanks to the efforts of my team, we were finally able to make that leap. I was really pleased because the status fits with our ethos of supporting people to improve their lives for the better. What’s more, we were also able to retain our mutual status, making us one of only a handful of organisations to do so. It was a long and challenging journey but it really set us up for the road ahead – to reach the 12.6 million socially excluded people without digital skills across the UK.

  • Receiving my OBE from Prince Charles

In the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2015 I was awarded an OBE for services to digital inclusion. In February I visited Buckingham Palace to receive my OBE medal from HRH Prince Charles. It was a really proud and fun moment for me, especially when I made Prince Charles laugh. It was great to receive such a high profile award for something that I feel so passionately about and that I just ‘do’ as part of my day-to-day working life. And I’ve been lucky enough to meet the prince again since.


  • English My Way celebration event

The first phase of our English My Way programme ended earlier this year and we held a celebration event at the beginning of May to commend the achievements of all the amazing learners and centres who were involved in the project. We know that there are still so many people across the UK who are unable to speak English and they’re missing out on so many opportunities, from applying and obtaining jobs, to everyday things such as ordering food in a restaurant. Seeing the difference that English My Way made to the lives of people is simply heartwarming and I wanted to re-share the video from our celebration event, so that if you missed it the first time you can see all the wonderful things the project has done, and will continue to do as we progress through phase 2.

  • Liz Williams becomes our new Chair

In May we made the announcement that Jim Knight, who has been our Chair for the last five years, was stepping down but staying on as a Patron of Good Things Foundation. I was very sad about it but also very happy about the fact that we found a new Chair in our long-time board member Liz Williams from BT. Liz already knows us very well – which is fantastic. She’s exceptional, committed and inspiring, and she recently did a tremendous review for the government on a basic digital skills qualification. I’m really looking forward to working even more closely with Liz and I know she’s going to bring so many new ideas and insight to her role as our Chair.


  • NHS celebration event

As our Widening Digital Participation programme with NHS England drew to a close, we wanted to do something special to recognise our three year partnership. So in July we held a celebration event at the House of Lords in London, marking the launch of the final evaluation report produced by our research team. We invited along a lot of our partners but, most importantly, we invited the people who worked so hard on the ground throughout the entire three years. From helping the elderly to transforming lives, these people were the ones that made the project so successful, and it was only fitting that they were there with us to celebrate everything it achieved.


Alicia and Victoria from the mHabitat centre at the launch of our report

  • Reaching 2 Million Learners

Following Get Online Week 2016 we were delighted when the counter on the (old) website finally hit 2 million learners. That’s right – since 2010 Good Things Foundation and the Online Centres Network have helped this many digitally excluded people to realise the benefits of getting online – which is amazing. It’s a key milestone which shows the real scale and impact that our work is having across the UK. We’re celebrating this achievement with the 2 Millionth Learner Awards, which is currently open for nominations. If you know an inspiring and amazing learner who deserves a real treat at the beginning of next year (a trip to a prestigious award ceremony at the BT Tower in London to receive a distinguished award), nominate them today.  


  • Get Online Week’s 10th birthday

In October we held our 10th annual Get Online Week and I wanted to celebrate the big birthday by going out to 10 events to meet amazing learners and partners. There were so many incredible people doing incredible things and I especially enjoyed The Connection at St-Martin-in-the-Fields, just a few steps from Trafalgar Square in London. This amazing day centre does everything they can to help homeless people in the capital, from a digital skills drop-in and lessons to the provision of job interview clothes. I met a Big Issue salesman called Steve and I gave him a Learn My Way certificate – he told me his story and how the internet has helped him. I heard so many stories when I went on my Get Online Week visits and I was just so pleased that we’re able to help those in the Online Centres Network to help the people that need it most.

  • Rebranding as Good Things Foundation

At our conference in November I announced that we were changing our name from Tinder Foundation to Good Things Foundation, and we’re taking the network along for the ride, rebranding them as the Online Centres Network. In a move that was either crazy or brilliant, we also launched two new websites on the same day. I love the new name. We do good things all the time and it used to be our tag line – ‘We make good things happen with digital technology’. I feel like it reflects what we do much better than our old name did – and, of course, we will no longer be confused with ‘that’ dating app. I love the new names and I hope you do as well.

Helen launching new brand.png

  • Our fifth birthday

So, my final amazing moment of the year was when Good Things Foundation, the little social enterprise that I started, had our fifth birthday last week (1st December). Along with the Online Centres Network, we’ve continued to grow and evolve. Although our birthday celebration was a bit sad with Jim stepping down as Chair, looking back on everything that we’ve achieved in 2016 I feel that we’re ready to press on with our mission to ensure that everyone can benefit from digital.

On behalf of myself and the whole Good Things Foundation team I just want to thank the network and all of our partners for your hard work and your role in our continued success.

I personally would also like to thank the Good Things Foundation team. You’ve achieved so much this year, the redevelopment and launch of new look Learn My Way and our new websites to name just a few. You are amazing.

2016 has been a truly crazy year. The Brexit vote happened, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, and so many talented people were taken from us – I personally spent a lot of time listening to Purple Rain back in April.

But for Good Things Foundation it’s been an incredible year of change.

I’m off to Australia today to round off the year working with partners doing digital inclusion down under. As I won’t return back to the UK until Christmas Eve, this will probably be my last blog post of the year. I think it’s very fitting. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year. I’m looking forward continuing our mission to ensure that everyone in the world has the opportunity to benefit from digital and information technology in 2017.

All the best, I look forward to working with you in 2017.

Alive and Kicking

It’s a new year; a time when fresh and fun ideas begin to take shape, and what better way to get things started than by joining the masses and going on a health kick? Exercise, smoothies, healthy eating, I’m doing it all and here at Tinder Foundation we’re beating the new year blues with a new Wellbeing Programme.

Why are we doing it?

The only thing better than a happy team is a team that’s both happy and healthy, and we’re making sure that all my colleagues are well-looked after both in body and in mind.

We’re doing so many things. Here are just a few:

  • We’re providing ample fruit every working day until the end of February, both to eat fresh or to conjure up a smoothie. How do you like those apples?
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Smoothie time

  • I’m sure you’ve heard of Mindfulness, a subject which is being talked about more and more recently. It’s all about focussing your mind and making sure your attention remains where it’s supposed to be when it begins to wander. We’ve been lucky enough to set up some sessions on this with a professional, Kevin Tobin. And, by happenstance my son bought me a colouring book for Christmas, which is now all the rage for busy adults.
  • Kevin will also be teaching us about Stress Management and Resilience to help the team remain calm, relaxed and ready for any challenge that’s thrown our way.
  • On top of this we’ll be having Tai Chi lessons and we’ll be continuing our lunchtime run club (you may have seen this on Twitter at the end of last year) with the addition of a lunchtime walking club around Sheffield City Centre too. Pretty soon we’ll be a group of Tai Chi-practising runners who know the sights of Sheffield like the back of our hand.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 15.47.09

There’s a lot going on here at Tinder Foundation. I’m sure the team will agree that it’s a really great place to work and it’s even better with the addition of this new programme. It’s the ideal way to start 2016 and to make sure that the whole team feel motivated, inspired and positive about the year ahead.

I spent the Christmas period with a self-imposed ban on work emails, and having a relaxed and clear mind I then allowed myself some time to think about the next few years and how we can be as impactful as possible up to 2020. More on that in another blog!

Happy New Year.